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Noir Syndrome

Steam’s Summer Sale has been both a boon and a curse in that my Steam library is practically exploding at the seams while my wallet is crying for me to fill it back up again.  Normally I’d hold off on reviewing games I’ve personally bought in favor of those games I received for free from their respective developers, but this one was too different to pass up.  This game, as best as I can describe it, is a twenty-minute murder mystery that you’ll be trying hard to solve.  As the detective, it’ll be your job to visit locations, gather clues, and arrest the culprit before the time limit expires.  If you made “Clue” into a single player video game (which has been done before) and added pixel art and a noir setting, you’d get “Noir Syndrome”.

Noir Syndrome

Noir Syndrome (Windows, Mac, Linux)

The game starts you off with a very basic tutorial on how to move your character, fire your gun, explore the environment for clues, and so on.  There aren’t that many buttons to memorize in all honesty and it didn’t take me long to catch on to how my character fit in with his surroundings.  It reminded me of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” for the NES a bit, minus the annoying AI controlled rabbit that ran back and forth across the screen constantly.  On the downside, you can’t charge up a punch and knock people/Roger into next week…oh the memories.

It’ll take a game or two to full grasp what’s going on, but I’ll offer to sum it up for you.  Someone has committed a murder and it’ll be your job to figure out who it is and arrest them before the time limit expires.  The city map screen (top-down view) has about twenty or so locations (I didn’t bother counting), ranging from speakeasies, diners, and nightclubs to police stations, slums, and sewers.  The game only gives you about fourteen days and each visit to a building via the city map screen consumes an entire day.  In effect, you can visit about thirteen locations before you’re forced to try and arrest somebody on the last day.

While at a location (side-scrolling view), you can talk to people, break into locked doors with lock picks (of which you have a finite amount), and search the area for clues.  Talking to people will usually yield suspect names while exploring the environment can yield clues, money, or other goodies.  Not to worry, suspects and clues are automatically added to your notepad.  Each suspect has an affiliation (police, mobster, civilian) and a profession (dancer, driver, etc.) and the clues you find will help you to eliminate the names you’ve been collecting.  If Sandra Smith is a civilian and the clues you’ve been finding point to a male policeman, you’ll be able to deduce that she’s not the one you need to arrest.

Noir Syndrome

Clues will usually point you to a particular profession or affiliation.

Your character does get hungry while doing all of this, forcing the player to find money so that they can purchase food from one of the NPCs.  If you don’t feed him, he’ll starve and the game is automatically over.  In addition to buying food, lock picks and bullets are available at different locations.  It’s worth noting that gunfire in this game is incredibly deadly and all it’ll take is one bullet to kill you.  I wouldn’t steal from the mob or do anything crazy unless you really had a death wish.  Lock picks are also very scarce at times, so it’s worth holding onto one when you’re about to make an arrest in case the suspect is hiding behind a locked door.

What did I think?  It’s a bit too short for my tastes and I wish there was a way to customize your games to make them longer.  I liked “Clue” for the Sega Genesis for that very reason: it had multiple difficulty levels that lengthened the game appropriately.  There’s also not a lot of detective work to be done, in all honesty.  Pick a location, collect names and clues.  Pick another location, collect names and clues.  Rinse and repeat until you die or are ready to make the arrest.  There is a little deductive reasoning needed when comparing the clues to the names on your list, but it’s very bare bones in my opinion.  I’ve also encountered the occasional bug to where clues will point me one way but the culprit will end up being someone totally different…others on the Steam forums have reported the same issues.

With that said, I enjoyed what the game attempts to do.  I haven’t come across a lot of games similar to this and I applaud the developers for trying something different.  I also appreciate the “Dinner Party” bonus game mode that puts you inside a huge building with all of the suspects and tasks you with finding the killer.  It’s similar to the regular game (minus the city map), but people will “go mad” at random and shoot you on sight.  It’s silly but entertaining nonetheless.  Had the game included the ability to customize your experience…that is, increase the number of suspects and the amount of time you had to solve the mystery, I’d be playing it a lot more than I am currently.  As it stands, it’s a great idea limited by somewhat repetitive gameplay mechanics.  On the other hand, the retail price is seven bucks (as of 6/27/14)…meaning that it may very well be worth the purchase depending on your personal viewpoints.

Final Verdict: 6/10

You can learn more about and purchase “Noir Syndrome” by visiting the following websites:


  1. smallberry
    July 7th, 2014 at 05:06 | #1

    Great review! I was gifted this game during the Summer Sale since my friend knew I’ll devour anything with Noir and Jazz in it. I’m looking at 2 weeks with nothing to do this month so I’m gonna plough through a bunch of quirky titles like this.

    • Vincent
      July 7th, 2014 at 06:03 | #2

      Thanks chief! Noir Syndrome is most certainly “quirky”. 🙂